Two weeks

Random X-Files artwork; oh, nostalgia!

Random X-Files artwork; oh, nostalgia!

In a radical change of pace, I’m taking two weeks off; my vacation started on Monday. It doesn’t sound like a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, because it’s not, but this is the first time I’ve taken more than ten consecutive days since college (not counting maternity leaves).

We’re not planning to travel, and Tim is still working, so I’m using the extra time to draw, write, hang out with the kids, and just generally do whatever I want. I know the time off is good for me, but it feels almost decadent. It’s also really hard to be away from work — to the point where I’ve had to create a new user account on my computer to avoid getting distracted by email and Slack — which I suppose is a good sign.

In typical me fashion, I’m distracting myself by making a to-do list, which is a very wrong or very right way to spend my time off, depending on how you look at it.

  • Day trip to Fredericton
  • Go see Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Date night
  • Finish MaddAddam
  • Get my third book to 60k words
  • Finish 2 1 more short fic draft
  • Write five blog posts
  • Finish Hannibal season 2
  • Draw things! Lots of things!
  • Walks

This week, I’m having way too much fun designing X-Files fan art posters, and working on my fics, and just generally being creative. Vacation doesn’t look much different from my regular work day, but the type of work I’m doing is different. It’s a welcome, self-enforced artistic retreat.

my village

Shopping

We’re in the middle of yet another snowstorm, and the only reason we have food today is because our nanny, E, offered to go grocery shopping for us before the storm hit.

Let that sink in for a moment–our nanny volunteered to take our two-year-old to the grocery store to do our shopping for us. She even made a special trip to Wal-Mart because the valentines I asked her to get for Ellie’s class were too expensive at the grocery store. And then she took Gwen to the candy store to pick out a few treats, just because.

Never mind all those trips to the library, the park, and the quality playtime she’s spent with both kids since we moved here.

It really got me thinking about how lucky we’ve been, not just with E (who is amazing) but with all the people who’ve treated our kids like family instead of charges. We may pay for the care, but you can’t buy the kind of relationship my girls have had with their various caregivers over the years, and for that, we’re incredibly fortunate.

Beyond that, we’re lucky to live with family who do things like mow the lawn and watch the dogs and act as back-up care for the kids (and just being here–sometimes it’s nice to know there’s another adult in the house!) We have a family friend who cleans for us once a week. And I’m personally grateful to have a husband who is an equal parent and does his fair share of juggling All The Things.

Then there’s my job, where I’m lucky enough to have the autonomy to work when I need to, the flexibility to work with my family’s schedule rather than around it, and to have the freedom to stay creative and genuinely love what I do.

A question I keep coming back to, specifically as it relates to work and life and having time for myself, is “How do I do it?”

It came up at dinner with some teammates in Charleston a few weeks ago. I was rambling on about my newly-acquired fanfic writing habit, and a co-worker asked the question.

I said something to the effect of, “My kids watch a lot of TV.” I was joking, of course (though my kids do watch too much TV, sigh), but I keep coming back to this question because people keep asking me–how do I do it? And I would like to be able to give a concrete answer.

So yesterday, when E was standing there with my kid on her hip, saying, “Hey, do you guys need anything at the store before the storm hits? I’m happy to do it, and it would keep Gwen occupied for a bit,” I realized a big part of the answer to that question is, “I have help!”

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we’re lucky to have a village plus some.

But this got me thinking about a tangentially related issue, which is about recognizing my strengths and admitting my weaknesses and accepting them for what they are. For me, “how do I do it” means giving up unrealistic ideas about the kind of person I “should” be, and not pitting her against the person I actually am. I am not a full-time, stay-at-home mom–why would I expect myself to act like one? Likewise, I can’t stay up ’til the wee hours writing and theming, because: kids!

It’s a constant struggle for balance that no amount of hired help can fix. If nothing else, I’ve learned that I can survive on a little less sleep and a little more coffee.

Maybe a lot more coffee…